#30DaysOfBiking

I’ve signed up for this thing called 30 Days Of Biking. They don’t have an about page, but they seem to have a decent graphic/web designer. The basic premise is that we sign up and kind of “pledge” that we’re going to ride our bikes every day in April. We’re going to do this because reasons! Which is fine and dandy, I didn’t have to pay to sign up. I didn’t purchase any merchandise (because I’m always broke unless I really badly want something). They state on the top of their pledge page that for every 30 people who sign up they’ll donate a bike to the charity group Free Bikes 4 Kidz, who have a better web designer and no typos in links to external websites. That’s super cool! Kids should have bikes, and if they can’t afford them, then it would be really cool to give them one for free. The 30 Days people aren’t very clear on how they plan to make this donation, where the bikes are coming from or really anything other than “Hey we’re going to work towards this thing!” Hopefully it works out!

So I signed up, despite the lack of information, because of the nice feeling of maybe doing something good by doing what I was planning on doing anyways.

White 1973 Eaton's Glider Three-Speed leaning against a post

#30DaysOfBiking Through Assiniboine Park and area!

Kenneth’s First Day

Winter has finally broken, the streets are dry-ish, and the weather is not… too bad. I’ve been sitting on this old English Three speed for a few months and really looking forward to taking it out for the first time. It was a lovely day a few days ago, and the Ladyfriend wanted to test out her bike as well. So we got to it for a couple of loops around the block to test the waters.

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Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, for me at least, but we soon discovered that L’s bike was still slipping out of second gear into the no-mans-land of neutral that Sturmey Archer had in their older three speed hubs. She was understandably disappointed and decided that she didn’t want to continue riding with her glider in that state. Her hands were also quite sore, so fixing the bike on the spot was not high on the to-do list of the moment. I decided to forge onward, wanting to ride a bit faster and farther.

At this point I should mention that I am by no  means an experienced rider, and the upright position on the Glider is very unfamiliar to me. (Is that foreshadowing? I don’t know, maybe.)

I’m clipping along at a good pace for a residential neighbourhood and approaching an intersection with a left turn. As I lean into the turn, two things happen. First, I realize that I’m going too fast, and second my handlebars seem to be moving independent of the rest of the bike! Needless to say, I quickly found myself on the side of the road, stopped, with my bike far more horizontal than most people prefer. I gathered my pride — the only thing that I could see injured — and tried to carry on as though nothing embarrassing had just happened.

Half a block further on my journey, my bike started slipping into neutral… “that’s weird” I thought, because it was weird, I decided that it must be a fluke, and I may need to adjust my shifting chain after the incident. I continued down the street, allowed my irritation to build while trying to keep the bike out of neutral, and the bike was not cooperating. Finally I pulled over in a cul de sac and discovered that the chain guide bolt looked a bit crooked.

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With this in mind I chose to head home to inspect the damage. The bike stayed in third gear (loose chain) okay, so I stuck with that all the way home… fortunately it wan’t far. The good news turns out that I did not strip or damage the threads on my axle, the bad news however is that I need to replace that axle nut.

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How do I Carry This Crap!

Now that I have a working bicycle, and a plan to use it, I need to start considering needs beyond peddling and shifting gears. Like the title says…

I’ve had a military surplus messenger bag for several years and it’s actually quite useful. It has eyelets on the back that could feasible be used to clip into some sort of handlebar mounting system; it could also be converted into a pannier bag pretty easily. In fact on a few outings with the old cruiser I’d used the shoulder strap wrapped around the middle of the handle bar as a makeshift mount! If I want to have pannier bags, I’ll need some mounting mechanism, possibly some sort of rear rack setup. I really like the look and feel of the Pletscher CS rack. It’s a form factor that’s been around for a really long time, so it has a classic feel that fits with the older bikes that L & I own.

I wonder what other types of inexpensive racks and carriers are available, and fit the old bike aesthetic?

Going Places

One of the reasons I have for starting my bike experience as a commuter is that I really need a destination when I go someplace. It may be a psychological quirk of mine, but if I don’t know the destination I will immediately feel lost and want to go home.

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Where the heck am I? What’s going on!

Without the destination all I really know is that I’m in a city, some distance from home. There’s no point of reference so I can’t plot my next direction. It’s kind of a helpless feeling, it’s also completely irrational. The Ladyfriend does not have this hangup, so it frustrates her to no end when she wants to go for a walk or a bike ride.

“Let’s go for a bike ride!” She says

“Where to?” I reply

“Just around, maybe up Wellington, or something; I don’t know”

“… That makes no sense” I say.

“AAAaaahhhrghhh!” She replies.

This is more what I like:

Ahh, these are known places that I can navigate to and from with ease!

Ahh, these are known places that I can navigate to and from with ease! There are multiple routes I can take as well.

I did this when I was a little kid as well, before I left home I’d think about the route I was going to take. “First up around the top block, then down the steep hill, back past home and over to the bike jump where I’ll probably lose my chain, through the forest I’ll take the lower path then go up past the wood pile and back out of the woods…” and so on.

What is a Bike Even?

When someone says “bike” or “bicycle” what do you think of? I’m guessing it’s probably not this anymore:

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Or even this, despite there being a time where this was the pinnacle of cycling technology:

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Things change.

For me, when someone talks about bikes, or bicycles, I immediately imagine that they’re talking about a ’70s or ’80s ten speed. That’s just the default “bike” for me. Maybe because those are the bikes that I coveted as a kid growing up in the eighties. Maybe my aesthetic simply prefers the clean lines and diamond frames for unknown, subconscious reasons.

Of course, technology doesn’t stop just because something is pretty. New materials, new manufacturing processes, science and ergonomics are all influencing modern bicycle design. Incredibly lightweight materials that can be made in a more aerodynamic shape than simple round tubing, suspension and hydraulics, electronic shifting, all of these things lead to bicycles that would be barely recognizable twenty-five years ago

Fit as a Fiddle!

A while back I posted about my successfully riding my bike around the block. Not a major feat by most standards, but hey, baby steps are important. One thing I didn’t mention in that post was a discovery I made about myself. I’m out of shape.

Wow am I ever out of shape. Sure, riding in snow is probably more effort than riding on a dry street in the summer time; but I was pretty winded after riding for less than ten minutes! This bodes well for a work commute that I’m expecting to be a twenty to thirty minute ride at first.

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I’ve had a pretty sedentary lifestyle since I started working on technology for a living. I remember working for my Grandfather’s building supply in my teens I was pretty damn fit. Not athletic sprinter style; but eight hours of hauling drywall, cement, lumber, and building materials with few pauses, endurance type fitness. After that I worked in a manufacturing plant making LVL, and while it wasn’t nearly as intense as 100 lb bags of cement, I was active.

For the last six or seven years, however, the most intense labour I’ve had is lifting a Mac Pro up onto a work bench…. maybe twice. I do spend a lot of my current days walking, and that can leave me with tired legs at the end of the day, but my heart rate stays pretty level. I think I’m getting all of the weariness and sore muscles of exercise without many of the actual health benefits.

My early years kept me relatively fit by default, but now that I’m older and in a new industry I have to actually pay attention to my activity level. That’s something I’ve never really learned how to do. I need to find new patterns and behaviours that will result in more activity, because looking for activities for their own sake doesn’t seem to work with me. the Ladyfriend is often frustrated in her attempts to get me out for a walk or other activity when I ask a question that is very important to me, “where are we going?” I don’t have a justification for my desire for a destination, but it’s there none the less.

Different Cities, Attitudes, and Styles

I haven’t moved around a lot in my lifetime. I grew up in a small town in B.C., lived in a different small town in Alberta while I was failing to attend college, then back to B.C. for several more years. I moved to Calgary shortly after my partner L. started her BFA in the city and started on my path as a computer technician.

Calgary was an okay city, too conservative by far, and sprawled over more square kilometres than probably necessary. This made riding my bike for much more than entertainment somewhat futile. When I lived close to work I wasn’t yet interested in riding all that much, and when I lived far away it really wasn’t feasible. The last couple of years in Calgary is when L & I actually started riding a little bit more often, and while there isn’t much in the way of protected bike lanes, there are some dedicated paths through and around the City core. Once, just to see if it was possible, I did actually ride my bike to my workplace – on a day off so I wouldn’t panic about getting sweaty and lost. This is when I learned that the bike I wound wasn’t really suitable for that particular need. Calgary isn’t in the mountains, or even close really, but it is hilly. The three speed cruiser was simply too heavy, too poorly set up, and too difficult to ride. It was only a little over six kilometres, but it took more than an hour to get there.  I’m sure there is more infrastructure than I’m aware of, but it was never very visible from my vantage point. Commuting to work in Calgary seemed like more effort than it was worth.

Winnipeg seems different so far. Maybe it’s because I’m paying more attention, but it was pretty easy to pick up a free map with the local bike infrastructure. It’s also a whole lot flatter! I can see that there’s a clear path from home to work that includes a variety of types of paths, roads, and shared spaces. One of the first things I saw when I moved to Winnipeg a few years ago was a protected bike path. I’d never seen anything like it, so I immediately put it up on Instagram (as you do.)

Proper bike lane in Winnipeg.

A photo posted by Nelson Milum (@nelsonmilum) on

This was, I think, one of the things that started me thinking that I might actually like biking again. I have to remember that it will probably never be like when I was a little kid riding around the block and through the forrest paths, but it can be a new kind of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

More is Always Better, Right?

I’ve barely used the Three Speed at this point, but already I’ve acquired another bicycle. I can justify this in a couple of ways. One; it was free. I noticed over the last couple of years there are several bicycles in the communal storage area in the apartment where I live. I mentioned the abundance to L and my landlord, and he said “Feel free to take the ones that don’t belong to anyone.” So, if my neighbours in this four suite apartment do not have a claim on a bike in the basement, and the landlord doesn’t, then that bike has been abandoned by a previous tenant and is up for grabs.

This prospect excited me, because hey, free is the best price! So after some idle inquiries to my neighbours over then next few weeks I discovered that there were indeed two bicycles in the basement that do not belong with any person who lives here. I was clear about my intentions when asking the neighbours and to be honest, one of them had a super cool bike that has a bit of history in this area, and I might want a similar one in the future… I kind of wish that Sekine was an abandonment.

Long story short… or short story shorter since I’m not incredibly verbose.

Meet Gaspode:

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This is after a quick dust wipe once it came upstairs, as it looked like it had at least ten years of dust layered on it (In a relatively non-dusty basement with low traffic).